Although game drives and sunset cruises are not on the top of my bucket list, a cruise on the river is a must for each and every bird lover. Try to organize joining the Hakusembe Sunset Boat Cruise or the Namushasha Morning/Afternoon Boat Cruise for a birding trip. The early mornings are also recommended, when most of the birds are starting to get ready for the day. It is also much cooler and calmer then, which allows for some extremely good sightings.
If you are into watching hippos, elephants, and other wildlife, this activity might also be entertaining for the multi-talented wildlife observer. Burdening yourself with the waterways, there is the main stream option and then, if water levels do rise, it also allows for channelling. The birds observed during the two different options are very rewarding, so try to convince your guide to show you both, if the time allows.
The reeds along the channels, probably because boating is much slower and the water flow is much calmer, entail a lot of smaller birds like one of my favourites, the Malachite Kingfisher. If you are lucky, you might even see one indulging in some fishing. The various swallows and martins are probably best seen along the river. Little Bee-eaters are common and also enjoy seeing tourists. Viewing an Allen’s Gallinules or African Swamphen, hiding in the reeds sometimes even venturing out on one of the odd water lilies, is a story you can tell your friends around the campfire at night.
If you see a Rosy-throated you can give your guide an elaborate tip because he will deserve it thoroughly. You might see both African and Lesser Jacana and I even got to spot the elusive Black Crake.
The main stream is usually a good option if you are looking for larger birds like the Purple Heron, and the Goliath Heron. Raptors are not that common, especially as far as variety is concerned, but they can deliver some rather special species, such as the Bat Hawks and Long-crested Eagles. The ever-present Fish Eagles are a given, so do not be too surprized if you see a few. Swallows are quite active during summer, especially at dawn, as some even venture along the boat. Bee-eaters normally allow close-up encounters, and are a welcome sighting during summer-time, the Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters accompanying the ever present White-fronted. The beaches along the main streams are usually a favourite resting place for flocks of White-faced Whistling Duck, Long-clawed and Pied Plovers. If you’re lucky, you might even see the odd African Skimmer.
Giant and Pied Kingfishers are larger birds that can often be seen, being the only other fish-eating kingfishers apart from the Malachites. The Fan-tailed Widowbirds are quite visible from the boat and are always worth a stop although they do not seem to hang around for too long. African Stonechat are a welcoming variation to the Kingfishers.
If you come across hippos wading in the water, look out for the oxpeckers on their backs, cleaning them. Have you ever committed to a boat cruise at one of Gondwana Collection Namibia’s lodges in the North? We look forward to reading your birding experiences in the comment section below.